Breathe In

My favorite part of the day is taking a long, hot shower. If it is 128 degrees Fahrenheit outside, I will still take a hot shower and I will come out red as a lobster and I will be happy as a clam.

There’s something about water that is so powerful, so seductive. Water has all the emotions in this world. Just look at the sea. You know one time I was back in Arizona and I would always trail run along the canals and I was looking into the water at the fish and I thought “Noone blames the ocean for having it’s moods.”

Man cannot tame the ocean. He learns to use the winds and waves to his use and yet sailors know that the ocean is as she is, powerful, a goddess to be respected. The ocean takes an interesting place in religion too. Christ walked on water. And to join the religions of Christianity one must be baptized in the water. Water is seen as an avenger, a life giver, a temptress, and a resurrection from evil.

I had one of my bad days the other day and so I went to the locker rooms to take a long hot shower. If done right, a shower can be one of the most sensuous experiences of the day.

The rhythm of hot water pulsing over the skin, burning and soothing. Drops deflecting off the skin to strike the glass wall. Soothing pulsing burning pouring. Rivulets tracing patterns of tears over tan skin. A river of dark wet hair flows over the muscles of the back, traces the curving spine.

Music is playing. A voice chants and croons in slow, mournful Hindi. A hand reaches into a container and the earthy bitter smell of coffee and cocoa fills the air. The crystals crunch slightly under the tired fingertips. Three fingers spread the crystals over the skin, scattering cocoa brown particles over the skin, imparting nourishing oils and sugars into the warm wet skin. The spread of crystals is massaged over the thighs, calves, then upwards over the stomach, chest, and back, and finally the arms.

For a  few moments the water is directed to only pour over the dark hair as hands massage creams into it smelling of musk and spices. The fragrance of dark, heavy, Maui coffee is still crystallized into the air.

Focus on the flow of breath through the mouth, into the body, the slow, long exhale that releases the tension of the day. The seductive rhythm of the waters insistent touches that strikes and soothes the deepest aches and sorrows away.

Rebirth. A fresh start. Feeling the pulse of vitality. The slow heartbeat under the light pressure of slim fingers. Running those hands through the waterfall of long, dark hair, wet as an otter, smooth to the touch. Stroking. Massaging. Touching.

Noone is around. No need to be self conscious about any part of the body or bring to mind any fault. Just focus on the water.

A cleansing of the mind. A feeling as though maybe, just maybe, the water can wash away all the cares of the world, if even for a  few blessed moments. A baptism. A rebirth. A second chance.

Hands reaching to massage down the tired muscles and back, rubbing off the crystals of coffee and sugar. Massaging coconut oil into the tired, sleepless skin.

A silent prayer that the water will wash away the memories. Wash away the pain. That the warmth will feel like what love used to feel like.

Stepping out of the shower to be wrapped in a fluffy, soft towel, and collapsing onto a bench, clutching a hand to my forehead. Tired beyond any scale I’ve known before because I remember the face of my enemy. I know the enormity of my task.

And yet, I still leave the water.

………

It’s the Sabbath so I thought some reflections on religion and faith were in order and then I realized I don’t feel like I can be honest about what I feel. I have realized in writing this that I have been facing the same struggles for so long now that I do not remember what it is to be without mental illness. I don’t remember what it’s like to have a day go by where the rape doesn’t stab me through the gut and twist. A day without pain, I do not know.

Something else going on, because I have decided to go off medication and try to get the service dog to help me with my PTSD symptoms, is I am confused about my own identity. I remember I have always been a person of extremes. Particularly in emotions. But I accepted it. People can be passionate in their lives and be okay. Maybe it is because of my diagnosis that the doctors forced me to take medications I did not want any part of. To them it seemed the only choice. The choice to control the feelings instead of working with them. Working with the wind, and the sea, to get to a better place. Instead we decided to try to stop the tide and look at me now.

Maybe it is true that sometimes medication is the answer to help someone regulate their emotions. But I wonder, for myself, if I was always meant to be this way. NOt suicidal, of course. But if the strength of my passions is what defines me and gives me my greatest strengths. Maybe this should be something to be guided, not obliterated.

I have not felt like myself for a very, very long time, worsened by the medication. I find myself saying things without thinking and feeling like a stranger to myself because never before would I have spoken that way. I never saw myself becoming who I am right now. I feel disconnected from my judgment and my actions. There are times when I recognize it is the PTSD or the depression that is screwing with my emotions but there are other times when I feel as if it is a force outside my mental illness, i.e. the medication, affecting me strongly to the point that I feel as though I am watching from outside my own body.

So what is the answer?

I haven’t found it in my church, in my medical physicians, in medications, in anything. And as with most things, I suspect the answer is in me. At the end of the day, there are some things that I can decide. It’s difficult to trust yourself in general, but when you are diagnosed with not 1 but 3 severe and debilitating mental illnesses- the whole definition of a mental illness is that you are “crazy” and your judgment cannot be trusted on practically anything.

But honestly other people can’t usually be trusted either. In most cases people think too highly of their own opinions to the point that a person becomes a problem to be fixed and unseen as a person with problems. The Cinderella effect, remember? Her stepmother and stepsisters were so fixed on seeing her as a servant girl that despite quite obviously having the same face and body she had back home, they did not recognize her.

Something I am coming to learn about myself, in listening to old recordings I made as part of my journal about therapy sessions, is that I have always had a very great heart. People say that about heroes and such. People of the truest heart who would never turn on their cause or their loved ones. They also say it about people like the main guy in Braveheart. They charge into battle fearlessly and accomplish the impossible.

What I realized… Is that I do have the most loyal, tender heart you could possibly find, but that that is closed off now and has been for the longest time.

I play rugby and threaten to slug one of the guys and then I go home and I hold a puppy and I am so tender and loving and caring, you’d hardly recognize me as the same person. I had a dream once.

I was holding a puppy in my arms. The pupy was brown with curly hair and these deep brown eyes and she was so cute and so happy and I felt warm. I felt so happy. I felt the love pouring from this precious little dog into me. It was life. Vitality. Warmth. Joy. Love.

And then my ex-guyfriend Teddy Bear walked up to me, took the puppy out of my reaching arms, and brought her to his witch girlfriend Kitten. I could see the love and happiness in their eyes.

I was left holding nothing. Cold. Alone. And watching them smile and play with the puppy I was utterly devoted to.

It occurred to me why didn’t I just get another puppy and then the answer came to me is that the puppy was a gift. A gift that cannot just be rebought by me and mean the same thing.

Every person at birth is given the ability to connect and love and be loved by another person. The puppy in my dream, was the symbol of that part of my life. That guyfriend Teddy Bear, I had cared about him, made sacrifices to help him pass his classes, and loved him. And he turned from me for his girlfriend and betrayed me. My chance at connecting with another person had been severed. Again. The girlfriend I hated had taken my puppy, my connection, and she had that connection with my guyfriend and I was left with nothing.

It basically describes all my relationships in my life since my dog Angel died and KT left.

As I’ve been very suicidal for almost two weeks I keep thinking “There must be a reason I did this.”

Honestly I come home crying from dance practice every other night. Feel sick and alone all the time. Feel like I want to yell and scream that I’m hurting, but knowing that I can’t voice my agony because that will make me vulnerable to witches like Kitten again. Feeling like I want to grab all my guyfriends and my few female friends and hug the living daylights out of them, but at the same time so terrified of being vulnerable that I just  give them a tight smile and keep walking away.

I think that that alone is enough to give anyone moodswings like I have. And I’m starting to think that the reason I connect to dogs, is because my dog was my connection. If you think about the timeframe Angel was in my life, she came a short while after the sexual abuse began. She was my unfailing, most loving companion in a time when my mother wasn’t there and my dad was busy and most relationships failed. When I was bullied and made fun of.

I was devoted to her with all my heart. Just like I was devoted to KT and to be frank I still am, but to a slightly lesser degree because I want to telenovela slap that little punk for not saying goodbye to me and not talking to me for 2 years.

The fact that I’m not connecting to anyone else actually makes a lot of sense. It’s out of loss. I’m grieving the loss of my dog and my best friend and because I now understand how bad it hurts when those deepest connections are broken, I’m not about to risk it again for any PERSON.

Notice I said person. You should seriously see me with a dog sometime.

I feel so depressed and hopeless because I am really struggling for more reasons to live. My biggest one used to be that hope for connection. I hoped that I could feel love again. Feel love for others and feel loved in return. But I feel nothing. And it’s been like this for so long.

I know I feel love for the dog next door and the pitbull Jake, but because they aren’t my dog, it’s not as strong a reason or as constant a reminder. It may be that having a dog that is mine and mine alone will be the connection I need to keep on living. It seems so far away right now, though. How am I going to get over $30,000. How am I going to keep my scholarship and help my family pay for school. Can I really have these dreams that I want or will they slip through my fingers?

I understand now, why I keep relapsing. It’s feeling alone and wanting so badly to be able to say “I love you” to the people that matter and actually feel it. To feel what I felt in KT’s arms. To feel what I felt every single day when my little dog curled up next to me in bed or when she heard me cry and came to scratch on my bedroom door because if something was wrong, she wanted to momma me.

Too many times have I locked myself in the girls bathroom to cry my eyes out or fallen to the floor from exhaustion and starvation.

Yes, it’s expensive, but

AM. I. WORTH. IT?

What price is my life worth to you?

I wish I could say that I will make it without this dog.  But deep deep down I know that if this part of me is left broken, I will never be able to shoulder the burdens of my mental disabilities. It is the deepest core of my identity, who I am. It is the foundation and when a foundation is broken, no matter how many times you try, you cannot build a stable house over it.

And I am so frustrated that I haven’t ben able to just fix it. Just be like “Okay Hannah, you’re going to love this person. Let yourself feel loved. Come on. Let the feelings come.” And nothing comes. Over. And OVER. And OVER again.

I feel like the biggest lie ever. I smile at you when I want to scream instead. I laugh when I want to cry. This duality is just unlivable.

Maybe for my next post I’ll tell you the story of my first close call suicide attempt and why I didn’t die then. Maybe it will give both of us hope.

 

 

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